Masters Matter: Dr. Derek J. Martin And Christopher Ely, Geography

Dr. Derek J. Martin, assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, and graduate student Christopher Ely discuss the Master of Arts in geography at Appalachian State University. This program is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Geography and Planning.


  • Dr. Derek J. Martin: My name is Derek Marin I’m an assistant professor in the department of geography and planning.

    Christopher Ely: My name is Christopher Ely I’m a graduate student in the geography program.

    DM: Right now we’re sitting in my office which is in Rankin Science West which is one of the wings of the science building. The geography planning department occupies all of the third floor. I’m technically classified as a physical geographer and as a physical geographer I study river system geomorphology. I’m particularly interested in how rivers redistribute both sediments and organic material. Some of the research I’m involved in right now is located near Cuenca, Ecuador where we're trying to understand the geomorphology of a river system that drains a very unique ecosystem and so as part of that project Chris who is my graduate assistant accompanied me to Ecuador to help me with a lot of the field work.

    CE: My experience in Ecuador was fantastic. It was my first time out of the country and to be able to work in the Andes is going to carry with me the rest of my life. In Ecuador we spent seven nights alone in a research camp at 11,000 feet doing field work surveying the geometric dimensions of this headwater of the Amazon river. Well this river has never been studied before and there was plans on building a dam there so we were there to do a pre-assessment so when they build the dam they can replicate the natural conditions so that’s really what my thesis will be about is explaining all the fieldwork and data we collected

    Working with Dr. Martin is great. He’s always available and willing to help me any questions I have. He's definitely the boss but when I’m done here I could maybe see being friends with him in the future?

    DM: No I mean one of the reasons I enjoy working at App State is because of the relationship we have with our students. Being a master’s granting institution and not a PhD granting institution we do put a lot of focus and energy into our masters’ students and so we have a very close working relationship and I think that’s beneficial to both the students and us as faculty. We get a lot of really great research a lot of great work done because of that relationship.

    CE: What drew me to Appalachian State was definitely the natural environment. I grew up in the flat lands in Illinois so it’s quite the change, a welcome change. It’s a great outdoor classroom for me to experience firsthand what I’m studying. I’ve spent a lot of time walking around rivers around here and beautiful settings as part of my assistantship and I couldn’t be happier.

    DM: Yeah Chris mentioned how it’s such an incredible place to be because it’s like an outdoor classroom. We as professors a lot of here that teach physical geography and environmental related classes take advantage of that and we use what we have around here as an outdoor classroom. I’m currently teaching a hydrology class in which I try very hard to get my students out into the environment into the rivers measuring all of the things that we learn about in class and applying that.

    For students interested in a graduate education I think App State is an incredible place to be. Because of the fact that we are not a huge research school not a PhD granting institution we put a lot of focus on our masters students were able to invest a lot more time in them and it’s an incredible place to be. Our students love being here and so do the faculty and the love for this place that both students and faculty have is reflected in the quality of work that we do here. For students that are interested in applying to our graduate programs here particularly in geography you’re welcome to shoot me an email and I’ll try to get you the information that you need.